Canyoning in Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken, Switzerland is the most “outdoorsy” place we’ve been so far in Europe. It has a variety of hikes and adventure sports for people of all ages.

As we scanned the brochures in our hostel of things to do, Chelsea set her heart on canyoning.

I don’t really know how to even describe canyoning. You hike through gorges filled with rushing water, jumping off waterfalls and repelling down cliffs.

We booked our 3.5 hour canyoning trip with Outdoor Interlaken just 30 minutes after our hang gliding flight.

We jumped in the van with Timon, who I’m going to call Adorable German. He was one of our two guides for the tour. He had the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen and an adorable little accent. He giggled like a little girl and he was just so adorable. I wanted to squeeze his cheeks.

Sorry, back to the canyoning.

We suited up in a wet suit, helmet, life jacket and boots and headed up the Alps. We climbed for about 10 minutes before we arrived at the gorge. Adorable German and Stan (our giant Swiss man as I was calling him) told us that even though we only climbed for about 10 minutes, it would take over an hour and a half to get back down.

Stan was a giant blonde man with a pony tail and was probably in his 40s or 50s. He is actually from South Africa and sounds like Nigel Thornberry from Nikelodeon’s cartoon “The Wild Thornberrys.” He’s been traveling around the world for 25 years leading canyoning and white water rafting trips. He’s lived in Nepal, Patagonia, India and more. He’s been in Interlaken for five months and this is the longest he’s ever stayed in one place.

Unfortunately we didn’t bring a camera because we were afraid we’d lose it so we don’t have any photos from the trip other than our group photo.


The gorge we were canyoning in had rushing water running through it. The trip began with a slide down a slick rock and floating along the rushing water to a waterfall.

Next up was a repel down the side of a waterfall. I’m not entirely sure how high this was, all I know is that it was freaking steep and I was not happy about it.

Adorable German told me to lean back. Every time I did I felt like I was going to fall backward onto the rocks. He kept pushing me back and I kept trying to climb back up. I was not about to “repel” down a waterfall like a god damn mountain man.

But of course, I had to. I just sort of slid down the side of the waterfall instead of actually walking. I am unbelievably uncoordinated. I slammed against the wall a few times and then was drowned by the rushing water under the waterfall when I got to the bottom. Man, am I glad I spent my hard earned New York City money on this.

Luckily there was a guy in our group who couldn’t swim and was the most uncoordinated person I have ever seen in my life. He somehow ended up in a small alcove on the other side of the waterfall. I really have no idea how. He made me look good.

We hiked some more through the gorge to the “practice” waterfall. This one we were going to have to jump off of.

They told us that the pool at the bottom of the waterfall was relatively shallow so we should lean back and sort of cannonball into the water. Everyone got up there and started doing flips off the waterfall and literally just leaping down into the rushing water below.

I hesitated and really thought I was going to hit my head but I jumped eventually.

And it was nothing compared to what was to come.

The next jump was a 21 foot waterfall. I refused to look over the side. Everyone was jumping and flipping and leaping and I was all like, “You guys are freaking nuts!”

I went last for this jump. I wanted to see a few more people do it before me in hopes it would give me a little confidence.

Unfortunately, my time came.

I get up to the top of the rock, looked down and just burst into tears.

I’m going to fall backward and smash my head into the waterfall. That’s going to spiral me into the wall beside us and then I’m going to land on my head and die. Will my parents come pick up my body in Switzerland? What will Chelsea do if I die? If she died, what would I do?

This is literally what was going through my mind at that moment. I told Chelsea this later and she replied, “All I was thinking was I hope I don’t get water up my nose!” Damn you Wisconsin.

I look at Adorable German and all I see is the damn light flashing on his GoPro camera on his head, meaning I’m being filmed.

“You’re making me cry on camera!” I yelled at him.

“All these idiots before you jumped and you’re way more coordinated than them. You can do it. Just jump to Stan (aka giant Swiss but really South African man) and then you can keep going,” he replied.

I looked down again and could tell everyone was sick of waiting for me. I couldn’t do it. One last sniffle and I told Adorable German that I’d have to go from the smaller one that was only 15 feet.

I started to freak out again at the top of that one but I knew I couldn’t hold up the group any longer. Right before I jumped I realized no one had jumped off this one yet so I really have no idea if it’s safe or not. Great.

Finally, I jumped, screeching my lungs out the entire (short) time. I turned around and looked at the waterfall and saw how tiny it was. I really am a city girl. It’s official.

Adorable German leaped off the waterfall behind me, doing some crazy trick and came to see if I was OK. I told him I was fine but he was really mean for making me jump.

The rest of the canyoning trip was very easy. It was mostly walking, floating and sliding through the gorge. After the jump, I had a lot more confidence in myself!

“Why am I now in the front of the pack?” I asked Adorable German.

“I don’t know,” he said in his little accent. “Bravery!”

Canyoning was definitely an experience. I’m hoping it will tide Wisconsin over on the adventure activities so we can sit our butts on the beach when we get to Croatia on Thursday!


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